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Revitalising UK High Streets: Transforming Vacant Spaces into Community Hubs

Repurposing empty spaces on UK high streets is a critical endeavour to revitalise these once-thriving hubs of commerce and community life, and last October Good2Great, along with the Shrewsbury BID, hosted a seminar around this theme with Ojay McDonald, CEO of the Association of Town & City Management, as guest speaker.



The decline of bricks-and-mortar retail, compounded by the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, has left many storefronts vacant. However, with the right strategies and vision, these vacant spaces can be transformed into vibrant, dynamic assets that benefit both local communities and the broader economy.

One avenue for repurposing is to encourage pop-up shops and temporary markets. These initiatives not only inject new life into empty spaces but also support local entrepreneurs, artisans, and small businesses. Pop-up events and markets can foster a sense of excitement and curiosity, drawing foot traffic back to high streets.

Additionally, vacant spaces could be converted into community hubs. These spaces can host workshops, art exhibitions, or cultural events, becoming hubs for creativity and social interaction. Co-working spaces or flexible offices are another possibility, catering to the changing work landscape and providing local businesses and freelancers with affordable, accessible workspaces. In Bridgnorth, with The Printworks project, this is exactly what we have done. With help from a Shropshire Council UK Shared Prosperity Grant, this vacant eyesore on Bridgnorth High Street has been transformed into a bustling co-working space.



In Wellington, the Wellington Orbit has introduced a community cinema and arts centre, run by volunteers, repurposing a former and vacant bank – with financial support from Telford and Wrekin Council and the Town’s Fund. This project, as well as The Printworks, were part of the case studies presented at Shropshire’s first seminar about place.


The repurposing of empty spaces on UK high streets offers an opportunity to breathe new life into these vital commercial and cultural centres. With creativity, collaboration, and strategic planning, these spaces can once again thrive and serve as hubs of community, commerce, and culture.


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